Isoda Koryūsai
Utagawa from the House of Matsubaya
c. 1778

Signed: Koryūsai zu; Publisher’s seal: Eiju han; hashira-e, 68.0 x 11.9 cm; nishiki-e and kimedashi

From the series “Edo-chō in Shin-Yoshiwara” In the pleasure district Shin-Yoshiwara, Edo-chō was the first sidestreet encountered after entering through the “Big Gate”(Ōmonguchi). Although Harunobu had already designed many hashira-e (pillar prints), Koryūsai was the one to explore the artistic possibilities of this unusual format. These long, narrow prints were usually mounted on hanging scrolls and hung on wooden pillars in houses.

Provenance: Auberlin, München (Fritz Nagel, Stuttgart, March 1970)
Riese Collection #34

Jack Hillier pointed out in his catalogue of the Mellor collection that Koryūsai  based his designs for this set from pictures of animals in Ehon Shahōbukuro, an illustrated book designed by the painter Tachibana Morikuni and published in Ōsaka in 1720, and remarks that “In Koryūsai’s prints, however, the designs take on a new character, the beasts are strangely unreal like those of the 18th century netsuke makers, the designs have a Korinesoue slant and these elements are fused by the colour print technique into prints that have the appeal and allusiveness of surimono.” Koryūsai seems indebted in this set, and in this print, which Hillier describes as “one of the most exquisitely colour-printed pieces of the set” in particular, to Yama no Sachi, “Treasures of the Mountains”, a poetry anthology which illustrations of flowering plants, reptiles and insects by Katsuma Ryūsui which was published in 1765. Ryūsui’s plants are surrounded by bold outlines, and his colours are very similar to those used by Koryūsai’s printer in this design.

Reproduced in Ingelheim catalogue, no. 30.